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Last Meals

“It’s your last day on earth. What do you have for dinner?” is one of those “cake or pie” type of questions that seem to get thrown in written interviews when the person can’t think of anything more inventive. The answers are rarely illuminating other than to rabid fans of the person being interviewed, who really want to know what their idol’s favourite food is. But it got me thinking that that would actually be a fairly difficult question to answer honestly. I mean, how would you actually choose?

1. Artichokes

This is the easy one, any meal I might put together as a last meal should have artichokes with a side of Real mayo. None of that light crap, either, and no poncey drawn butter or lemon. Just mayonnaise. Hands down, artichokes are my favourite food in the entire world…which really sucks since you cannot buy them in the UK. Oh, sure, there are probably fancy organic markets in London where one can buy them flown in fresh from France. Lah-di-frickin-dah. Up here where we live, however (I am always confused if it’s Midlands or the North of England) they view artichokes with deep distrust. I haven’t met anyone aside from my husband (who lived in the US) who has ever encountered a fresh one. And as all artichoke-lovers know, marinated hearts in a jar are an abomination to both God and the Devil, one of the few things that they agree on.

2. Steak. Or maybe rare roast beef.

I’m an unrepentant carnivore. I could no more give up meat forever than I could give up breathing. My father taught me how to cook steaks: charcoally and seared on the outside and the inside bloody. And you eat that crispy fat, don’t go wasting that on the dog, best damn part of it. All the middle needs to be is warm, if you cook it any more than that you’ll destroy all the juices. Steak is also pretty good if you crumble a beef stock cube into a dish of olive oil, rub it into the meat, and then pan-sear it. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. But yeah, I would really need a good steak at my last meal.

3. Unless it was lasagne…

Oh, god, I love lasagne. Specifically I love my lasagne, which I learned to make in New York years ago. You have to cook the sauce all day long. Lots of garlic and onion, and both sweet Italian sausage and ground beef. Wine, Italian herbs, and it’s ok to use canned tomatoes. I’ve made it both ways and I can’t tell the difference. Good ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan. Lasagna isn’t cheap to make, but you can skimp sometimes by mixing cottage cheese with egg to replace the ricotta. I’ve never made my own pasta, which probably does make a difference. I used to have a friend who married a guy from Sicily and moved there and she said that you have to make fresh pasta or the ladies in your village spit on you and call you a slattern. Not literally, but close. But anyway…layer, bake, and bring out all golden with pools of oil shining on the top of the baked cheese. Heaven.

Or maybe I want steak. That’s a hard one.

4. Bread

Good bread is my weakness. I love San Francisco-style sourdough and Southern cornbread with honey butter. Yeast rolls, lighter than the breath of sleeping babies. Dense bread heavy with seeds and nuts and cheese. I’m not a big sweet fan, I don’t crave chocolate, but god is bread difficult to give up.

5. Dessert

Notice the generic there? I can’t choose, because all desserts are associated with my mother. She was a great cook, but really shone at baking. If this was my last meal, any dessert choice would be heavy with memories of my mother. Her chocolate mayonnaise cake was legendary. So were the huge cinnamon rolls she would make for Christmas morning: early in the morning, they would go into the pain to rise into huge feathery pillows, then as we started to wake she would pop them into the oven. The smell will always mean Christmas to me. See what I mean?

So, that tongue-in-cheek last meal question? Not so easy to answer honestly.

Plus, I think I must have gained about five pounds just thinking about this.

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